Hudson River School | American Art Form

Forging an American Art Form

While the Hudson River School had strong and deep roots in the Hudson River area, its artists were keenly aware of the aesthetic debates taking place in Europe and strove to emulate, and compete with, European artistic trends. Many of the artists spent significant time engaged in the Grand Tour in Europe, especially Italy, seeing their travels as a search for an Arcadian past, and seeking inspiration in the scenery and great works of art which they could bring to bear on their own national production. These artists visited many famous Grand Tour destinations, absorbing the classical past through their experiences. The direct observation of nature and the practice of plein-air sketching in the Mediterranean climate were equally pivotal. Thomas Cole and his fellow artists dreamed of bringing the cultural traditions of Europe to America, while forging an independent and uniquely American art form. Cole’s fellow Hudson River School artists, including Durand, Kensett, Gifford, Samuel F.B. Morse (1791–1872), Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823–1900), Thomas H. Hotchkiss (1833–1869), William Stanley Haseltine (1835–1900), John George Brown (1831–1913), and Samuel Colman (1832–1920), spent significant time traveling throughout Europe, absorbing the landscape painting practices of the Old Masters and their contemporaries in Great Britain, and later France, and observing and recording the light effects and scenery, notably the ruins of Italy. Paintings by Raphael (1482–1520) and landscapes by Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665), Claude Lorrain (1600–1682), and Aelbert Cuyp (1620–1691) were intellectual and artistic fodder for their own artistic explorations.

William Stanley Haseltine (1835–1900) Coast of Sori, 1893
Oil on canvas, 25 3/16 x 45 5/16 inches
Signed and dated lower right: W. S. Haseltine ’93


William Trost Richards (1833–1905)
Tennyson’s Farm, Farringford, Isle of Wight, 1880
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 9 3/16 x 13 11/16 inches (sight size)
Signed and dated lower right: Wm. T. Richards. 1880; initialed, dated, and titled on verso: W. T. R. / 1880 / Tennyson’s Farm, Faringford / Isle of Wight

Images courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC